Great Expectations (1998 film)
name = Great Expectations
caption = Theatrical release poster
Ethan Hawke Gwyneth Paltrow
Robert De Niro
20th Century Fox
1998-01-30(US and Canada) 1998-03-13( Mexico) 1998-04-17(UK wide release)
runtime = 111 min
language = English
website = http://www.foxmovies.com/greatexpectations/main.html
imdb_id = 0119223
Great Expectations is a 1998 contemporary
film adaptationof the Charles Dickensnovel of the same name, directed by Alfonso Cuarónand starring Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert De Niro, Anne Bancroftand Chris Cooper. Despite its popular and respected cast of actors, the movie received mixed reviews.
The movie begins with young Finn (
Jeremy James Kissner) exploring the beaches of the Gulf Coast of Florida. As he searches for more fishto draw in his sketchbook, an escaped convict Arthur Lustig ( Robert De Niro) suddenly pops out of the water and overpowers him. This convict makes Finn promise to bring back food and medicineand a tool to get the iron shanks off his leg at dawn the next day. Finn does this, and the convict unexpectedly tries to make Finn boat him to Mexico. The policesees the small boat heading out to sea. The convict hides on a buoy, and Finn's boat is towed back to shore. The next day, Finn sees on the news that the convict had been recaught, and that he was Arthur Lustig, former mobster.
Uncle Joe (Chris Cooper) gets called to Paradiso Perduto ("lost paradise"), home of the richest lady in Florida, Ms. Nora Dinsmoor (
Anne Bancroft). Ms Dinsmoor was betrayed by her fiancé many years ago and had gone crazy. Ostensibly he was called there for a gardening job, but he does no gardening. Instead, Finn, who he brought along, meets young Estella ( Gwyneth Paltrow) in the overgrown garden. Ms Dinsmoor sees them interacting and calls Maggie ( Kim Dickens), Finn's sister, to ask her to let Finn be a playmate for Estella, even though Estella apparently dislikes Finn. Maggie pushes Finn into this for the money.
On Finn's first visit to Ms Dinsmoor, she is disappointed when Finn cannot dance for her, but is intrigued when he says he can draw. She forces Estella to sit for a
portrait, which Finn draws with make up on an old piece of wallpaper. While he draws, Ms Dinsmoor warns Finn that he will fall in love with Estella and have his heart broken. After the portrait session, Ms. Dinsmoor calls it a day and asks Estella to help Finn find the door. On the way out, she stops to take a drink from a water fountain. While drinking, a crafty expression comes across her face. She politely offers him a drink from the fountain as well, which he gladly does. However, Estella was playing a trick on him and, taking advantage of his open mouth, gives him a tongue kiss. Finn is stunned by this, having never kissed a girl before.
Several years pass. Maggie runs away from home and Joe raises Finn alone, despite there being no blood relation. Finn goes to Paradiso Perduto every Saturday, where he learns to
dancewith Estella. One day, Estella mentions that she has a party to attend. Ms Dinsmoor is shocked that she does not have an escort to take her, to her dismay ("It's the '80s!"), so Finn volunteers to escort. Estella quickly agrees (though rather annoyed at Ms. Dinsmoor's over-protectiveness). When Finn shows up at the party, he is not allowed in because he is not on the guest list. Estella shows up beside his pick-up truckand asks him playfully if he will take her to his house. Finn agrees. Once they get there, Estella starts to seduces Finn, getting him to put his hands up her dress, and they make out heavily. Then she suddenly leaves, claiming that she is very busy that night. The mention of the party was merely another trick to seduce Finn, showing Estella still makes advances on him, which are also implied to be increasingly sexual.
The next day, Finn goes to Paradiso Perduto, only to be told by Ms Dinsmoor that Estella had left to study abroad in
Europe. Finn is considerably upset. For the next seven years he resolutely puts Estella and Ms Dinsmoor out of his mind, along with other high class things like his art. He helps Joe out with his fishingbusiness.
One day, a lawyer comes to Finn and tells him that he will have a gallery show in
New York City. Finn and Uncle Joe are astonished at this stroke of luck, not the less because Finn has not drawn ever since Estella left. In the end, Finn is convinced to go to New York, which Estella had once claimed was the art capital of the world. When he arrives, he immediately gets to work drawing again, since he has no pieces to put on exhibit. He sits down in Central Park, drawing everything he sees and revealing that he has not lost his skill. He takes a break to get a drink from a water fountain and while he is drinking, Estella appears and kisses him. She then invites him to afternoon teawith her at a high class club.
Finn arrives to tea with Estella and some of her high class friends. He only has eyes for Estella, but is rudely brought back to earth when Estella introduces her fiancé, Walter Plane (
Hank Azaria). Walter teases him by asking how much he would charge to draw a portrait of Estella. He then leaves in a hurry amidst the laughter of Estella's friends.
One day, Finn wakes up in his
hotelroom to see Estella standing next to him. When he expresses surprise, Estella reminds him that he had wanted to draw a portrait of her. While he prepares his sketch pad and charcoal, Estella removes her clothes. Finn draws many sketches of her naked in different positions. Estella suddenly puts her clothes back on and leaves, saying that she is very busy. Growing sick of Estella's games, Finn chases her out to a cab and asks why she keeps doing this to him. Estella looks sad while explaining through a metaphor that she was trained to act this way by her Aunt Dinsmoor.
Walter shows up at Finn's hotel room one day, wanting to see the result of the portrait session, and is blown away at the
nudity. He then confesses to Finn that he thinks Estella is using Finn to push Walter into asking her to marryhim and asks him how to please her, as she was a childhood friend of his. Finn has no idea how to respond and Walter soon leaves.
The lawyer who had found Finn in Florida shows up again, moving Finn to a big
studiowhere he can work on his art more comfortably. Finn quickly fills up the studio with his artwork as the opening date of his gallery draws nearer. He makes Estella say that she will be there.
One night, at an important event, Finn becomes frustrated when Walter draws Estella away when he barely even got to talk to her. He follows them to their dinner at a Chinese restaurant. As the bemused dinner guests look on, Finn asks Estella to dance. They dance for a few seconds and then leave the restaurant. Once on the sidewalk, they run for Finn's art studio where they engage in passionate
Finally, the opening night of Finn's gallery show arrives. He looks everywhere for Estella but she is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Uncle Joe shows up, surprising and embarrassing Finn with his homely manners. When Joe accidentally knocks a tray of wine glasses over and tries to clean it up, Finn repeatedly tells him with increasing volume to "just leave it." Joe feels he is an embarrassment to Finn and decides to leave early, despite Finn's attempts to get him to stay. Finn then goes to Estella's abode in New York, hoping to find her there, but instead he finds Ms Dinsmoor there, who had come up to New York for the "special event." When Finn asks if she means his gallery opening, she tells him, no, she came up for Estella's wedding. When Finn becomes upset at this news, she says icily that she warned him when he was a child. At this, Finn tells Ms Dinsmoor that she has broken his heart, the way her fiance did all those years ago in the same way she had revealed her heart was broken. At this comparison, Ms Dinsmoor breaks down and apologizes remorsefully. Finn returns to his studio to find a strange bearded man wanting to see him.
The strange man turns out to be Arthur Lustig. He reveals his identity to Finn in a roundabout way. Finn is at first incredulous, but then he becomes uncomfortable with the old man's presence and implies that he should leave. As Lustig is walking out the door, he hints to Finn that he has knowledge of what Finn wants. Finn thus accompanies Lustig to the subway station, since Lustig has a plane to catch from the
John F. Kennedy International Airportfor Paris.
While they are waiting for a train, Lustig sees some unsavory and muscular acquaintances on the opposite platform. Finn and Lustig outmaneuver them and get on a train. They think they are safe, but as the train is in motion one of the old acquaintances through the car and brutally stabs Lustig in the side, stepping off the train at the next stop. As Lustig bleeds to
deathin Finn's arms, he reveals that he has been Finn's benefactor, paying for the lawyer, the gallery, the studio, the plane ticket, and even buying every single piece that Finn had up at the gallery. This was in return for the kindness that Finn showed to him as a child.
This news, along with Estella's wedding, is too much for Finn. He detaches himself from everything and goes to Paris to study art. He becomes successful in his own right, and eventually he goes back to Florida for a visit. Ms Dinsmoor has long since died and Paradiso Perduto is decrepit and falling down, and scheduled for demolition, but he decides to visit her house anyway. As he is sitting in the garden, he thinks he sees the apparition of Estella as a child (though this one is laughing and smiling, a contrast to the haughty, grim-faced child he once knew). He follows the little girl through to the back dock where he finds the child's mother, who turns out to be Estella. Estella had since gotten
divorced and her life has not been as pleasant as Finn's. She admits that she has often thought of him, and asks for his forgiveness for all the cruel ways that she had toyed with him in the past. Finn forgives her completely, and the movie ends with them holding hands and looking out over the sea.
Ca d'Zan, a mansion in Sarasota, Florida, stood for Ms. Dinsmoor's mansion. It once belonged to circus magnate John Ringlingand his wife Mabel. The painter Francesco Clementecreated Finnegan Bell's artwork in the movie.
The song "Siren" was written especially for this film by
Tori Amos. The soundtrack also includes songs by popular artists such as Pulp, Scott Weiland, Iggy Pop, Chris Cornellwith his solo debut, and The Verve Pipe. Duncan Sheik's contribution, the song "Wishful Thinking", was released as a single from the soundtrack. The film's score was written by Scottish composer Patrick Doyle, a veteran of many literary adaptations and frequent collaborator of Kenneth Branagh.
The soundtrack also featured the breakthrough single "Life in Mono", which became a major hit, charting on the
Billboard Hot 100.
Use of Green
There is a prominent use of the color
greenthroughout the movie. The seawater in Florida is very green. Finn starts out wearing a green shirt. The garden at Paradiso Perduto is overgrown with verdant green plants. When Finn first meets Estella, she is wearing a green dress. At the first party, she is wearing green. When they meet in New York, she is wearing green. When the lawyer comes to fetch Finn, he is repainting a boat green. Green is considered representative of jealousyand rebirth, among other things.
Reviews and box office
"Great Expectations" received moderate to poor reviews.
Roger Ebertgave it three stars, and said "Great Expectations" begins as a great movie (I was spellbound by the first 30 minutes), but ends as only a good one." RottenTomatoes.comgives the film a 38% critical review. It has, however, aged well and can be considered a classic if modernist retelling of the story.
Artwork / Portraits in the Film
All of Finn's artwork and portraits of the main characters in the film were done by
Francesco Clemente, an Italian painter. The actors sat for him in private. A gallery of some of the paintings is available for viewing at Fox's website devoted to the film.
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